Sixty-eight thousand people died of a heroin overdose in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accounting for 14 in 4 drug-related deaths around the globe, the United States leads the world in drug-related mortality. Deaths from heroin have been climbing year by year from 1990 on and peaked at 700,000 in 2017. These overdose rates are about seven times higher than they were a generation ago. The heroin epidemic continues to destroy families and kill hundreds of thousands each year. The United States government declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency as of October 16, 2017, and this declaration continues to this day.
Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance that is found in the seed pod of a variety of opium poppy plants. The plants grow in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Columbia. The powder made from the poppy plants is brown, white or a dark sticky substance is known as black tar heroin. A few slang terms for heroin are big H, horse, hell dust, and smack. Heroin and cocaine were used as medical pain relievers going back over 200 years. Heroin was used for a wide range of aches and pains from stomach pains to toothaches and was completely unregulated until the Harrison Narcotic Control Act of 1914. Of course, the illegal use of heroin has never stopped and only increased with each decade.
Dangers of Heroin Potentiation
Heroin is converted into morphine in the brain and binds to the opioid receptors. This is the “rush” sensation users refer to. This comes with a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the extremities. The user might also feel nausea, itching, and vomiting. The next step is several hours of drowsiness, clouded mental state, slowed heart function as well as slowed breathing. These can lead to coma, permanent brain damage, and can be life-threatening. The highs are intense, euphoric, and relaxing. Heroin is taken orally, snorted, injected, or smoked.
Mainlining heroin, injecting it into the skin, is the most common as it leads to the fastest and most effective high. Despite the already extreme and immediate effects of heroin, many users search for an even stronger high. The drug addict will often combine heroin with other drugs to enhance the high. This is known as heroin potentiation and increases the risk of a heroin overdose. Any method of opiate potentiation that is not directed by a medical professional for medical reasons is a form of drug abuse and is considered hazardous.
Polydrug Use and Heroin Addiction
By using more than one chemical at a time, the risk factors are increased for both substances. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that 116 people in our country die each day as a result of an opioid-related overdose, meaning they involve more than one substance. More than one-third of opioid overdose deaths involve a benzodiazepine drug.
Common potentiates for heroin include benzodiazepines, grapefruit juice, gabapentin, Benadryl, anticonvulsants, and alcohol. Grapefruit juice, antidepressants, antifungal medications, antibiotics and protease inhibitors, all block an enzyme CYP34A. This enzyme metabolized opioid drugs and by blocking it, they can increase the amount of the drug in the blood, making it stay in the system longer. Cough medicines, Benadryl, or any substance that acts as a central nervous system depressant like heroin will multiply the effects. Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant that also increases the effects and thus the dangers of heroin.
Addiction Treatment for Heroin
Addiction to heroin and the combination of other substances is near impossible to resolve without medical assistance. Heroin withdrawal includes nausea, abdominal pain, sweating, drug cravings, depression, muscle spasms, nervousness depression, and agitation. Withdrawal starts within 6 to 12 hours from the last dose and the worst symptoms last for about one to two weeks.
At Allure Detox in West Palm Beach, the addict will receive professional and safe treatment under medical supervision. We use medications and therapy to ease symptoms and monitor the addict’s symptoms throughout the day. We also provide support and services for long term sobriety after detox. If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction to heroin or any other substance, we are available to help you 24/7. Please do not hesitate to give us a call!